Tomorrow my baby turns thirteen. A teenager.

The last of my three. The most cuddly. The most outwardly loving.

How did it happen? Where did he go?

Such a soft heart. Today, he and his buddies were told they are on the C squad for basketball.
"It's because I suck," he told me matter-of-factly. Like it doesn't matter. But it does.

Who knew being a mom would be this hard?

Our daughter got invited to go boating today. It's the last weekend before she starts high school, she's completed her summer reading logs and has already emailed them to the teacher, and it's supposed to hit 100 degrees. There was no reason to say no... except my own jealousy.

So I agreed, with the condition that the clean her room.

Imagine my surprise when I went to wake her.
"It's 7:00," I said rather gruffly. "And I thought you were supposed to have cleaned your room so you could go."

She just blinked at me.

I used to teach parenting classes. I do know about consequences and follow through and how kids need rules and boundaries. I know she needs to know that when Mom says something, she means it.

I'm also aware of the 14 year old tornado that would have been released if I had done what I should have done, and not let her go. I know how disappointed her friend would be, who I'm sure was only allowed to invite one friend and she chose Kennedy. But these are just excuses.

At times, I am a marshmallow mom, and I'm sure that has contributed to fact that our home often looks like a frat house, that our children often argue and fight, and the fact that I do way more chores than anyone else.

And I'm gonna crack down, really. I've already announced that stuff left in the living room will be dumped outside. With school starting this week, new chore responsibilities will go in to effect. Bedtimes will exist once again... at least for the younger two...

I post this not seeking any support or condolences, but more as a reminder to myself that I really do need to get a little tougher. Most of you are probably guilty of the same behavior, at least once in a while (except for you, Lisa Souers), so maybe you need the reminder too.

I'm also hoping that Kennedy will get wind of the post and suffer a little embarrassment at the picture. Feel free to send her a note :-)

photo by

Are you a person who "feels hard?" In situations where someone else might say, "Oh that's so sad!" you are moved to tears? I have always been one of those, and a couple of my kids are too. We're sensitive...perhaps to a fault, because socially, it's not ok to just burst out crying when you see a dog get hit by a car or hear of someone else's tragic misfortune.

I must say, Prozac has helped me with this. I'm not depressed; I love my life. But I really have to be careful and filter out a lot of the "bad", because it can get almost paralyzing.
As I flipped through twitter this morning, I kept seeing #apieformikey on a lot of tweets. so I investigated a bit. Within minutes I had the story.

Jennie, a successful food blogger, married and mother of two adorable girls, suddenly lost her husband Mike to a heart attack this past Sunday. I don't know her, but they look to be late 30s-40-ish. I think the girls are 4 and 8. There was no warning. Looking through her stream, I saw she had tweeted Sunday that she had 13 days to get ready for a family vacation, then the next tweet was how she couldn't believe he was gone.

Until today I had not followed Jennie. Didn't even know about her. But her story set me back this morning. Especially the quick video of
dad and daughter that she at some point had taken a moment to record on her phone. Take a look. How treasured has that suddenly become?

To help Jennie and her girl's through their grief hundreds of people are following her wish:
“make a peanut butter pie this Friday and share it with someone you love… then hug them like there’s no tomorrow because today is the only guarantee we can count on."

On my surprise day off (thanks, boss), I am deeply saddened, perhaps more than most. But I am also reminded how important today is and how we all need to let those we love know just how much we love them.

Blessings to you, Jennie.

Yes, I know I write about my kids a lot. They are pretty much my world, and I am proud of them for not just what they do and accomplish, but for the people that they simply are.

The other day, our oldest, Michael, did something that spoke volumes about who he is, and I nearly drowned in a swell of love for him.

Last Tuesday he took my car to get it serviced at the Honda place by Walmart. Ten minutes after he got there he called me at work .

“You didn’t say it would take an hour,” he complained. “What am I supposed to do for an hour?!”

I told him to go wander around Walmart. Look at videos. Buy something to eat.

Grumbling, he said something about Burger King and hung up, and I went back to what I had been working on.

About an hour and a half later, he showed up in the office. He wasn’t grouchy anymore, and as he gave me the car key he said he was going to a friend’s.

“What did you do while you waited?” I asked.

“Well, I walked to Burger King and I was kinda hungry so I got four hamburgers. But I didn’t eat them because on the way to Walmart I passed four homeless people. There were four between Burger King and Walmart! I gave each of them a burger.”

Then he just kind of shrugged, said he’s text me later, and left the office.

I watched him leave and my heart caught in my throat. My little boy, my baby…

I know he’s almost grown. He kind of has a beard! I know my time left with having him as my child is almost gone.

But that afternoon, I was struck by the young adult he has become, and I realized that, as parents, we must have done somethings right.

Matthew 25:40

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I haven't done many writing prompts as of late, but I saw this one over at The Wink, and then I followed a couple of the links on that site and soon found myself pondering my childhood and why I am who I am.

If you too want to take a stroll into the past, the template for this thought provoking prompt is right here.

I am from nighties warmed by a heat vent, from Chef Boy’Ardee Ravioli, from huge bowls of Cap’n Crunch slurped up while watching Saturday morning cartoons. I am from Gilligan's Island and "Never dress, until you Caress" from Little House on the Prairie.

I am from cool hardwood floors, sun shining through smoky windows, air always tainted with strong black coffee, the house on 3rd Street. I am from bikes flying through—and later, beer hidden in—the laurel hedge. I am from chasing flying ants with a broom and playing war and climbing rough-barked trees.

I am from the house of roses, fuscias and rhododendrons, from the giant red cedar, from the acre of little farm nestled in the backyard of downtown. I am from raspberries, bursting with tang, from plums so heavy they drop from the tree, from home-canned green beans, put up in summer and plucked—too hot—from a saucepan in winter.

I am from Friday night eating out, and using good manners, from Daddy—who was not my father but was my Daddy nonetheless—and Mom and stories of the South and poverty and peddling. I am from a mongrel line, with no particular lineage—a mutt. (But mutts do make the best companions).

I am from worry and fear (because babies died before me). I am from be careful.

From stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about and you can be anything you want to be. (For a time, I was going to be a brown cow). I am from do your best and quiet let’s hear this now! I am from I love you.

I am from being dropped off for Sunday school, from loving kneeling at my BFF’s Catholic church, from tears at my First Communion. I am from guilt and fearing the wrath of Godand trusting the Son.

I'm from Alaska then Washington then Arizona then back to Washington (this is what divorce can do). I am from Kraft macaroni ‘n cheese and thinking margarine WAS butter until college. I am from good luck ravioli before basketball games, from ham and cheese sandwiches eaten in the gym, from Cinnamon Kitty.

From the barn my Dad built, telling me it was for goats when really it was for the horse I’d been pining for (and I believed him!), from being born in an igloo, from hiding my vitamins in a house plant—which grew very well. I am from watching my mother take night school, from hopgrassers and muhidity and “accidentally” pushing nasty cough syrup out of a window. I am from standing in the grocery store with my hands on little hips, indignantly telling my mom, "Well you're certainly not a choosy mother," when she insisted on the house brand of peanut butter.

I am from a drawer overflowing with snap shots, fading blue ink scrawled on the backs. From people I don’t know, never met. I am from grade school and buck teeth and orange ribbons and fat braids. I am from a mother who endured too much, a glass half empty. I am from a family of five, a family of three.

I am.

Y’all be proud of me. I drug my sorry ass out of bed this a.m. and headed to bootcamp at gym where the judge goes regularly, and I haven’t been to in… well, it’s been a while.

I used to take a lot of classes there—kick boxing being my favorite. Pretending to beat the crap out of an imaginary guy really did something for me. I developed a lovely right jab and left hook. My roundhouse wasn’t great, but I could follow it with an uppercut that would knock the poor guy out cold.

I was a regular then, and had earned my spot in the front row. The instructors knew me and would say hi at the Farmer’s Market and such. I felt like a rock star inside.

I’d see the older, perhaps a bit out-of-shape, ladies come in and head to the back of the class. I would be nice to them. I mean…they were making an effort, you know? They were getting out there and trying to keep the upper hand on the old aging process. They were cute.

Well, as one of my favorite bloggers would say, today I got bitch slapped.

I was that older, slightly out-of-shape woman. I’m still cringing at the recognition of it.

The judge and I were a minute late, which was completely my fault. A 5:15 class is early, WAY too early for a not-morning-person like myself. The judge brought me coffee and everything, but it just took me a while to become completely conscious. I know you other not-morning-people know what I’m talking about.

When we got there, they were just about ready to do a warm up. “Who are the new people?” the perky teacher called out. Um, yeah. So much for melting into the back.

There were four of us newbies. I believe I was (gak!) the oldest.

Warm ups ended and I was winded. And breaking a sweat. Not a good sign when the warm up is a hot up.

Thankfully, there were about 12 stations Perky Girl had to explain, which provided a great breather for me. I got my wind. My brain rallied. This will be great! I said to myself.

40 minutes later, my legs were shaking, my shoulders were in knots, I had a major spasm forming in my lower back, and I was dripping sweat. Mmmmm. I love a good sweat, but the pain, and yes, embarrassment, were putting a damper on the sweaty joy.

The Perky Girl paid a attention to me. She told me to go ahead and “modify” the moves. Oh, and start with the smaller weights.

Really, why didn’t she just announce, “Hey see this one here? She’s past her prime!”

“Modifying” became setting the ten pound weight on my head, instead of holding it above with straight arms. My V-sits became crunches, and then something resembling a turtle flailing about while on its back. When the instructor said we were done, I said a little prayer of thanks.

I had thought we had to do two circuits! I was wondering if anyone would notice if I sat in the bathroom for the second time through, stretching my crampy back and licking my damaged ego. But it was just one grueling 45 minutes, and we were done.

Perky Girl came over to me. “Are you coming back Friday?” she asked.

It’s a bit foggy now, but I think I said yes.

By then I was fully awake. I had the day’s workout in. I knew I had a whole bottle of ibuprofin just waiting for me at home. Come after-work hours, I wouldn’t have to feel guilty for not taking a walk. And Friday was a long ways away.

"Yes. Yes, I think I am,” I told her.

(Uh, no. That's not me.)

“What I Wanted for Mother’s Day”… I came across this title the other day over at the Tales from the Mommy Track web site. It was sweet—deliciously so—and I highly suggest you take a moment to read. Anyone who has ever been called Mom will appreciate it, the rest of you might learn something.

Walking later that afternoon, sans ipod (amazing how much you can think when you turn off the noise) I began to compile my own list of what I had wanted for Mother’s Day.

Wait! Don’t get me wrong. I did have a lovely Mother’s Day! The judge gave me the beautiful Citizen watch I’d been eyeing for the last month or so, and I received two beautiful, detailed bird houses to add to my collection. After presents and brunch (at the restaurant where our oldest was working!), we went to the Cowiche Creek Nursery, loaded up on plants, and came home, where I puttered around the yard for most of the remainder of the day. It was pretty perfect.

Birdhouses and jewelry and plants are often on my wish lists, because I like them and they are possible. But like Risa Green on Tales from the Mommy Track, there are a few other “gifts” I’d love to receive.

My Top 10 Gifts-for-Mom

1. I want everyone in our house to be in a good mood. For a whole day.

2. I want the dog poop in the yard to be picked up. Weekly. And not by me.

3. I want to be able to find the super glue/duct tape/flat head screwdriver when I need it.

4. I want my children (teens) to stop insulting each other with phrases like, “You’re a vagina!”

5. I want everyone to quit saying, “It’s not mine,” when asked to put something away.

6. I want to have all three of my babies (again, teens) lounge with me on the couch.

7. I want everyone to stop coughing and be well.

8. I want to get the kinds of gifts my babies used to make in school, wrapped in wrinkled brown paper bags that have been carefully sponge painted with rabbits.

9. I want all the dark laundry to be brought to me before I do the dark load.

10. When they go to bed at night, for the rest of their lives, I want my babies to always know how much I love them.

Really. Is that asking too much?

It doesn’t seem like very long ago that I celebrated my first Mother’s Day as a mom. My husband, baby and I went to church, where Father made something of a fuss over mothers. There were roses given to the oldest mother, the one with the most children, mothers of multiples, and every other category Father could imagine. I waited, hopeful, that I, with my six-week-old treasure, might be the newest mother, but lost out to a woman with her two-week-old. I was only a titch disappointed.

I had, after all, just joined this wonderful “club” of sorts. I was special. I was a mother, and on this particular day, I was going to be treated like the wonderful, amazing woman that I was.

Well, things didn’t go quite as I envisioned. Brunch at a nice restaurant was interrupted by my wonderful baby urping all over my dress. And he still pooped five or six times that day, and woke up five or six times that night.

I began to wonder what all the “Mother’s Day” hoopla was about.

I think many new moms probably have similar experiences, expecting and hoping to be treated as Queen-for-the-Day. After all, we do deserve it. I mean, there’s the whole birth thing (which is a tremendously amazing task), then we endure the postpartum period, that for many is marked by uncontrollable weeping (over nothing, mind you), sleep deprivation, engorged breasts (it may sound like fun, but it really hurts!), and feelings of love that are so strong they’re truly scary. And for a significant number of women, myself included, many of these “baby blues” symptoms continue and worsen, and we experience what experts now term “post-partum mood disorder”. For some, this condition can last several months, for me it’s been eleven years (except for the breast thing)!

So, after considering all of these wonderful, giving things I’d been doing, I found myself asking: Don’t I deserve to be Queen-for-the-Day? Shouldn’t all of us moms have a wonderful Mother’s Day?

The answer of course is Yes! We do deserve it. But the reality for most mommies is that the odds of getting the Queenie treatment are pretty slim, and letting go of that expectation is the first step to have a really great Mother’s Day.

I heard this news just before my second child was born, and I resigned myself to the idea. To be sure, my husband was extra helpful on those Sundays, and we went out for brunch or dinner, and if I was lucky, I got a good night’s sleep (the ultimate gift) because everyone else slept through the night.

They were nice Sundays, and I wasn’t exactly disappointed, but in all honesty, I think somewhere, mixed in with all those feelings of mother-child love and the fact that I wouldn’t give them up for the world, was just a tiny bit of resentment.

Until the year our third child came, and then I had the best Mother’s Day ever.

It started with having my heavily creamed coffee being brought to me (I’m so not a morning person), and after a few cups, I fixed breakfast. (There comes a stage, sometime after baby number two, when eating out becomes more of a chore than an enjoyment. With three little ones, it’s a long stage). Then, upon Daddy’s suggestion, we packed into the car to go to a nursery – a really nice one –where I was turned loose to look at everything. Being an avid gardener, this was a true gift. Dad watched the two older ones run up and down the rows of plants and baby trees, while I, with Jack tucked contentedly in his sling, browsed and imagined and shared ideas with strangers and asked for opinions. I picked out a couple of inexpensive bird houses and several lavender plants, and the kids chose (for me, of course) a lovely tin praying mantis on a stick. The entire trip was a joy; nothing got broken or spilled, no one fought with anyone else, and I was surrounded by plants and my happy family.

I was in heaven.

But the day wasn’t over. My husband – who will readily admit that little babyhood is not his favorite stage of parenting – then proceeded to watch Baby Jack while the older kids and I puttered around the yard all afternoon, digging and planting and pulling a few weeds here and there.

And when I went to bed that night, I thought, This was a perfect Mother’s Day! I held no resentments, and had no unmet expectations, because sometime in the last five years I truly lost my dream to be Queen-for-the-Day. Somewhere I realized that, at least to me, being Queen-for-the-Day was almost synonymous with being Not-a-Mom-for-a-Day. And that’s just a little too weird, since it Mother’s Day that were talking about.

Never for a minute do I wish I wasn’t a mom. Oh, to be sure, I wish I could use the bathroom for a few minutes alone, and that people might pick up their laundry and actually put it in the hamper before I get mad and yell. But I know, if it weren’t for my kids, I wouldn’t have the right to claim one May Sunday each year, and really, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Of course, as the kids have grown, the holiday has changed a bit. They no longer seem to be able to go the whole day without bickering over something, but they will stop when I remind them, “Hey! It’s Mother’s Day, remember?” And then there’s the “When is it Kid’s Day?” question. (Isn’t every day?!) But they still shower me with gifts and school creations that I’ll treasure forever, and my husband still plans what has become our traditional trip to the nursery, where we putter around before coming home to plant my new treasures in the afternoon. My family gives me a little time to do something I really love, and, on that day, I feel free to take it without feeling guilty.

I’m already looking forward to next May, when once again the kids will hint at gifts they’re making at school, and I will find scraps from cards they’re creating at home. I anticipate the day, because I really know that to be loved as a mom is not about being put on a pedestal for the day, but being totally surrounded by those who love me. And that’s the Queen-for-the-Day treatment we moms all deserve.